I agree with Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry – Mainland High School deserves our support during this difficult time in her history.
However, I also think Mayor Henry should understand that the leadership of Mainland – and our school district – must be worthy of our backing before real recovery can begin.
In his over-the-top, hyper-dramatic editorial in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal – which included saccharine histrionics such as, “Mainland needs us, and we need her to birth into our community the soon-to-be adults who are evolving under her care,” (Wow. Here I am watching my sugar intake and I inadvertently read that? Whoa – the N-J should have included a warning label. . .) Mayor Henry made the valid argument that the institution’s good work should not be lost in the fallout of the AP ‘placebo’ exam debacle.
Look, I’m kidding.
God knows I’m the worst when it comes to gilding the Lilly in these verbose essays of mine – but, in this case, Mayor Henry takes the cake.
On the same op/ed page, the News-Journal’s editorial board expertly summarized what the rest of us have been thinking since word of this fiasco broke late last month:
When will the Volusia County School Board issue a formal apology to the 336 students whose scholastic lives have been adversely affected by an organized scheme to deceive them and allow the healing to begin?
I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly support Mainland High School.
In fact, when Elizabeth Albert, president of Volusia United Educators, recently implored the Volusia County School Board to apologize to the teachers and staff whose lives and careers have been adversely impacted – our elected officials broke into an unabashed lovefest for the school.
Unfortunately, it came off as a clumsy attempt to deflect and defer responsibility – something akin to Principal Cheryl Salerno’s aggressive efforts to dodge accountability by fighting a benign reprimand that many felt fell far short of the corrective action it deserved.
By all accounts, Principal Salerno is a dedicated career educator who works hard to challenge and encourage her students with innovative learning experiences; however, it is also clear to everyone watching – including the district’s own investigative apparatus – that serious mistakes were made.
In my view, most people can separate the issue from the institution – especially one so vitally important to the life of our community.
A school is not merely the brick-and-mortar structure where the theory and principles of education ensure the transfer of knowledge to varying degrees. Rather, it is a living, breathing social institution – of and for the community it serves.
As the great Indian educationist S. Balakrishna Joshi once said, “. . .a school is a spiritual organism with a distinctive personality all its own, a school is a vibrant community center, radiating life and energy all round, a school is a wonderful edifice, resting on the foundation of goodwill – goodwill of the public, goodwill of the parents, goodwill of the pupils.”
Clearly, after serving generations of Halifax area families, Mainland High School is all of those things and more.
But what about that all-important foundational goodwill?
When will the district’s elected and appointed leadership initiate the restorative practices that ensure equity of opportunity for all students, reinforce core values, set an example that accountability extends to the principal’s office and allow a mechanism to ventilate the frustration and resentment many students and parents are feeling?
The Volusia County School Board and district administrators have an immediate obligation to restore organizational confidence, end the trepidation and anxiety many educators and staff members are feeling and rebuild the public’s trust in Volusia County Schools.
That begins with a sincere apology to those who were adversely affected by this deception and an honest promise that all efforts will be taken to ensure an open and independent external review of the error chain that led to this disaster.
In my view, the best way we can support Mainland High School is to ensure this never happens again.